Justin Vinall’s latest short horror film, “Emiko” has been making the festival rounds and racking up awards … and the trailer is coming out tomorrow on both YouTube and Vimeo! Until then, check out my interview with this talented filmmaker!
When did you know that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
Ever since I was at the age of 3 years old I knew I wanted to make movies, my grandma knew I loved dinosaurs, and she showed me “Jurassic Park” which opened up the door to my fate. I fell in love with the spectacle of it all, I adored the characters, story, music, and direction. Everything about it made me want to be a filmmaker.
Who are some of your favorite directors? What do you admire about them?
My favorite directors keep rotating, but right now I am really attracted to Darren Aronofsky, his work from “Requiem for a Dream” to his most recent masterwork, “mother!” Makes me admire the kind of storytelling he is pushing for, even if it is perverse. Other filmmakers include Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Nicolas Wending Refn and many more.
Filmmaking is a collaboration. How do you approach the fine art of collaborating with your team while still maintaining the authority of being the director?
Pick the right people, collaborators who both understand your vision but apply their own ideas that match something that you haven’t thought of yet. I love collaboration, and especially for EMIKO, I felt a strong collaboration with my Director of Photography, Kevin O’Donnell.
What/who inspired your short film, Emiko?
A short film collapsed during production and being fueled by frustration, I used that negative energy to create a story that was formed from a place of fury. But also around that time I had been diving into Japanese Cinema, especially the horror genre from the 90’s to Mid-2000’s, during which was the strongest period for Japanese Horror.
I know that you’re a fan of Japanese horror, in what ways did this influence your film?
Japanese Horror is far more atmospheric and focuses on family, tradition, and remorse in the forms of ghosts or demons. We would have scenes in EMIKO that would walk the line between what is reality and what is a dream. It’s hard to balance both an American approach with Japanese Influences in which it doesn’t feel either pandering or appropriating. We wanted to be as respectful to that culture as much as possible when we were paying a nod to the great Japanese Horror and Folklore.
How do Japanese and American horror films differ from one another regarding mood, setting and the devices used to terrify an audience?
Again, it comes down to atmosphere. I think American cinema lost its way with horror, you can look at movies from the 60’s and 70’s where horror relied more on the internal fear, something to relate to but now uses more slasher tactics or jump scares. We’ve had plenty of good horror the last couple years here in the states, but atmosphere is still missing, in which Japanese Horror has maintained since the silent film era when they started using horror as an art house form in that culture.
An original score was written for your movie, what determined your choice of music? Did you have a certain feel in mind, or did you depend on your composer to design the sound?
Landon Ashby is a tremendous composer, we spent months trying to find the right sound and took inspiration from films like Audition or Dark Water, using piano more as the emotional core and synths more part of the atmosphere. But also it helped that we had a fantastic sound design from Brian Richard Sloss who helped add grotesque details to the picture.
Emiko has been entered in a few festivals. How is that going? Are there any screenings coming up?
EMIKO has been doing really well, we played at Bleedingham in 2017 and won 8 awards including Best Film. We have played at a good amount, but it should start picking up in the next month as the festival season really kicks into gear.
Do you have any other projects that you’d like to share?
I am currently working on a Science Fiction Horror called, Tossed Aside Like Yesterday that focuses on the idea of what happens to our lives when we die? The idea of cloning and how much control you have once you do leave behind your life. We’re still casting, but one of the roles we have filled belongs to Lisa Coronado, an actor I have been very excited to work with for a while now.
Where can we get more information about you and your work?